Entries in The Smith (2)

Monday
Jan072013

The Smith (Lincoln Center)

When The Smith opened in the East Village in 2007, I never imagined it would become a mini-chain. It seemed to us, at the time, an average neighborhood spot and NYU student cafeteria. But a Smith clone opened in East Midtown in late 2011, and a year later across from Lincoln Center, in the old Josephina space. I’m sure it’s not the last one.

The concept here is similar to the East Village: a boistrous, casual space, with subway tile walls and leaded glass windows. It looks like Keith McNally could have designed it, right down to the communal washrooms outside the loo. They take reservations, and the hostess checks coats, which I don’t remember them doing downtown.

menus are similar, but most of the entrées uptown are a couple of dollars more, and at Lincoln Center they serve some extra items: a $75 porterhouse for two, a raw bar. But the core of the menu is the same, and one of the best items, a burger, is $15 at either establishment.

 

Trout Milanese ($25; above right) is an appealing entrée, served breaded in a mustard crust on a bed of lentils. I didn’t really taste the bacon or pear compote alleged to be in the dish, but it was fine for what it was. I would have liked a bit more kick from the mustard. My girlfriend loved the lobster roll ($29; above left; served only on Fridays), which comes with irresistible house-made chips, as it did when we had it in the East Village two years ago.

There are about fifteen well-thought-out cocktails ($13), and about two dozen over-priced wines by the bottle. But there’s another twenty wines by the glass, caraffe, or large caraffe. These are the way to go. We had the Pinotage ($25, the caraffe), which was the right amount of alcohol before an opera. Bur really, are they that hard up that they can only afford juice glasses to serve it in? C’mon guys!

I’d forgotten how much space there was at Josephina, the restaurant that was here before. The front room would make for a good size restaurant all by itself, but you pass through a corridor and there’s another dining room in back, which is a bit more sedate. This was pre-show, so the crowd was all ages—unlike downtown, which skews young. They did a brisk business, but weren’t full. The noise level was energetic, but not punishing.

My impression here was a bit more favorable than our visit to the original Smith two years ago. Downtown, there’s many more restaurants to charm you. The Lincoln Center scene has improved, but it’s no East Village. There isn’t really any other good spot quite like this one, serving elevated pub food, and doing it pretty well. We’ll be back.

The Smith (1900 Broadway between 63rd & 64th Streets, Upper West Side)

Food: Elevated American pub food
Service: Good for this sort of place
Ambiance: McNally Lite

Rating: Neighborhood Spot
Why? Lincoln Center needed a restaurant like this 

Tuesday
Mar162010

The Smith

The Smith never made it to the top of my must-visit list when it opened in 2007. The restaurant, as Frank Bruni noted, “didn’t make all that loud and persuasive a case for attention among all the other clamorers.”

But on Friday evening, when I was looking for a restaurant not too far from east Chelsea, where the food would suit my 15-year-old son, the Smith fit the bill perfectly. Better yet, the Smith is on OpenTable. These days, I hardly go anywhere unfamiliar if it is not on OpenTable. It’s simply not worth a trip, only to face an unknown wait.

The Smith actually didn’t have to be on OpenTable. On a Friday evening, it was packed—mostly with NYU students, or so it seemed to us. We appreciated that our reservation was honored fifteen minutes late, never a sure thing at a place so crowded. Fortunately, we got a corner table, which meant that the unsufferable din assaulted us on two sides, instead of all four. The Smith is as loud a restaurant as we’ve visited in quite some time.

The menu offers American brasserie food at recession-resistant prices, with starters and snacks, $10 or less, sandwiches, pastas and entrées $19 or less (except steaks, which are in the $20s). The by-the-glass wine list (most $10 or less) is longer than it has to be, and selections are also offered by the caraffe or the “big caraffe.” House cocktails are mostly $11, beers $6–8.

The kitchen did a respectable job with Caesar Salad ($9; above left). The pork chop ($19; above right) was decent, but the accompanying “sweet potato hash” (apples, bacon, cider glaze) tasted like it had simmered too long.

My son loved the lobster roll ($23; above left)—a special served only on Fridays. The burger ($15; above right) was respectable, but not as good as the one we had at Choptank a few weeks ago, at the same price.

I wouldn’t mind returning to the Smith if the dining room weren’t so loud. As it is…well, this is the East Village, an area not exactly starved for restaurants. I’d drop in again (outside of prime time) if I were, oh, within a three-block radius.

The Smith (55 Third Avenue south of 11th Street, East Village)